If you could design the final 10-20 years of your life, what would that look like? Do you see yourself traveling, healthy, learning new information and energetic? Or is it more of body aches, illnesses, medications, less energy, not engaged, lonely, and forgetful? Would you believe that part of positive aging is in how you see yourself?
What if you could manage that trajectory to a more positive future with fewer deficits and more joy? Research is producing lots of reports on how we can slow down the negative parts of aging and enhance the positives of living our lives until they end – instead of disengaging years before.
Being a professional care manager specializing in working with older adults for over 30 years, I have met many people on both sides of this journey of aging. Your attitude guides that journey, and it can go in one of two directions. Is it falling into the role of “patient” and resigning to a diagnosis instead of being mentally healthy and working on any deficit with the attitude of “I can recover?” or “I will enjoy my life” despite these setbacks? Be you and not your “illness” or condition.
If you want to write your own “blueprint” for a healthy future, it could include adjusting your attitude to being less pessimistic and more positive and with intention. That does take work, maybe a little professional coaching and counseling, but it can and is done every day for those who want the best life can bring.
It does not cost a lot to invest in a better future, even if you inherited some genetic factors that can’t be manipulated yet – scientists are working on those options.
These are seven areas you can start on:
- Exercise daily and factor in two important aspects of that with weight training and balance training. The latter two become more important as we age. Start slow – just 10 minutes twice a day of walking will help you attain your goal of at least 45 minutes of aerobic activity 5 days a week.
- Diet: Whole foods (avoid processed foods), lean meats that are cage free and grass fed, wild fish, lots of veggies and fruits, and whole grains – not just whole wheat but whole grains, then be sure to have healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, and avocados. Before drastically changing your diet, be sure to consult your doctor. Genetic testing is an option to learn what your body needs for optimum health.
- Mindfulness: Yes, this old practice of meditating daily reduces stress, enhances brain functioning and could be curative to some conditions. I teach a meditation activity in many classes in our office and the community.
- Engagement: Are you out and about meeting and socializing? Social engagement can add years to your life and often gives you purpose. Volunteering has been shown to reduce pain as well as increase endorphins. Being isolated is more negatively impactful on your health than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Even if you are homebound, there are activities and volunteer tasks you can do to stay engaged.
- Brain Health: The statistics show that 50% of those over 85 are being affected with a dementia like Alzheimer’s disease. Maybe a family member was a victim of this disease, and you are worried – more the reason to do steps 1-4 in this newsletter! Plus, continue to learn new information – take classes, read, book clubs, and play computer games that are action packed. Register for my “Brain Remodeling” class or sign up for our webinar on this going later this summer.
- Forgiveness: Do not harbor hate, resentment for others and learn to forgive yourself for the times you might have hurt others by your words or actions. Carrying old hurts is like carrying a ball and chain – “Let it Go” (like the words in the Disney song). If you struggle with this, make an appointment to see a counselor now.
- Generosity: Give to others in time, donations or financial gifts are a way to express your gratitude for what has been given to you. Just be sure to check out those who request funds or really know the organization you are giving to – scams are targeting older adults. When I have volunteered for mission trips or given to a charity, I have always come away with so much more than I gave. I see my gift as part of “life integrity” – helping to make a footprint of good in a world of need.
Designing a footprint for a good long life takes intention and sometimes a little coaching. Professional Care Managers can be your guide – give us a call at 866-760-1808 if you are stuck and want to make positive changes.